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Humanities grad school without a humanities major?

vienneselightsvienneselights Registered User Posts: 411 Member
edited March 2013 in Graduate School
I'm a sophomore currently double majoring in a literary field and a social science. I'm doing well in both.

My true passion (and, to be real, my real aptitude) lies in literary analysis, though I ended up majoring in it accidentally. I took a couple literary theory/graduate classes in literature, and I'm liking it more and more, to the extent that I've considered grad school (lay your Pannapacker article link aside, please). However, I'm loathe to drop my social science major because I'm quite good at that too (just not breathtakingly good), plus I have very real employment prospects in it through family connections/it being a highly employable major. And lately I've been thinking whether I need the humanities major at all.

You see, my literature department's major requirements are more strenuous than any other department's at the school in terms of number of credits, plus you can't include your thesis towards the credit requirement (which my advisor and I have been discussing since my freshman year; for which I am even doing this major). I'm overloading every semester already, and I've counted that double-majoring in this combination with leave me with two classes that I can take that don't count towards either of my majors. I don't want to take that compromise, especially since doing grad school in the social science will significantly enhance my employment prospects, too.

My question is, given that I have coursework at the advanced undergraduate/graduate level in the humanities, strong relationships with professors, and provided that I can take another literature class or two to generate a writing sample, will grad schools look unfavourably upon my lack of a relevant major?
Post edited by vienneselights on

Replies to: Humanities grad school without a humanities major?

  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 11,582 Super Moderator
    Well, yes and no.

    Can you still get in without a relevant major? Possibly; it depends on how many credits you have in the literary field and the strength of your recommendations and writing sample. If you show strong analysis and a true passion for the field, your undergraduate major may not matter too much for them.

    For example, let's say you major in the social science and "unofficially" major in the humanities field. Maybe you don't take all of the credits required by your college in the precise order and number the college wants, but along with your adviser you design a program of study that resembles/comes close to a major and has sufficient breadth and depth for someone interested in literature. In that case, I doubt the committee will care that you didn't "officially" major in the literature major, because you have the coursework, background and skills necessary to succeed on the graduate level.

    But some professors/committees will wonder why you dropped a literary major halfway through school. It's quite common for students to major in a field and realize halfway through school that they want to do something else, then ramp up in that something else. But you know right now that you want to study that literary field and you're still going to drop it in favor of the potentially more lucrative major. Given that that will be documented on your transcript, some may wonder why, and question your commitment to the field given that you were willing to drop it for a social science major that you admittedly don't like as much, but perceive to be more employable.
  • vienneselightsvienneselights Registered User Posts: 411 Member
    Do people honestly expect "commitment to the field" from a nineteen-year-old?
  • RacinReaverRacinReaver Registered User Posts: 6,608 Senior Member
    juilliet, at your school did your intended double major/track actually show up on your transcript? For us it didn't appear anywhere officially until you had completed it.
  • ShadowBallShadowBall Registered User Posts: 6 New Member
    You never know. One of my classmates has a BS in psychology and he graduated with an MFA in illustration, but he's an amazing artist, so sometimes mad skills can get you in just as much as grades and degrees. It may depend on what schools you look into - some may only be interested in grades and your GPA while others will look more at what you're capable of doing.

    You're right that social science has a higher likelihood of getting you a job than literature, but it all boils down to whether you want to do something practical and less enjoyable, or something completely professionally useless that you love. I did the latter - I majored in art because I was an idiot rather than something that will actually get me a job. I had fun in college and all, don't get me wrong, but fun won't pay the $80K I owe for my BS alone (and another $50K for the damn MFA I didn't want - hello welfare because I'm not effing paying that much money).

    If you can take extra courses in grad school that relate to your preferred major while focusing on the more practical one, would you be willing to do that? I took half a dozen psychology classes over the course of my undergrad studies - I don't know if that would qualify me for acceptance into a psychology program, but just saying. I love psychology, but I know it's right up there on the top ten list of worthless majors along with philosophy, religious studies, and all art fields, so getting a weekly dose of Freud and Jung was enough to make me not transfer to a psych major.
  • vienneselightsvienneselights Registered User Posts: 411 Member
    thanks, guys.

    I mean, MFAs are different in that they just look at your portfolio, but thankks for the input.
This discussion has been closed.